2021 City of Design Challenge Winners Announced

Three Multidisciplinary Design Teams Share $60,000 in Grants to  Advance Inclusive Community Tech Hub Projects

October 8, 2021, Detroit, MI - Design Core, the College for Creative Studies, and Connect313 announced the winners of the inaugural 2021 Detroit City of Design Challenge last night at an outdoor cinema showcase hosted at the Congregation. The event was part of Detroit’s Digital Inclusion Week programming. Launched as part of Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation, the City of Design Challenge invites designers, residents, and other community stakeholders to collaborate on projects that improve access and opportunity in Detroit neighborhoods. The first edition focused on addressing the digital divide through community tech projects.

“This Challenge perfectly complements the Connect313 initiative and demonstrates the important role design plays in making technology inclusive, innovative, and impactful. We discovered so many amazing people and projects through this Challenge that will bring even more momentum to the Connect313 network,” said Joshua Edmonds, Director of Digital Inclusion for the City of Detroit.

Over the summer, six teams were selected by a community jury to develop their projects and given funding, professional development, and a wide array of other resources to support their process. Unlike a traditional design competition, accepted teams received inclusive design training which equipped them with the knowledge and tools to implement projects that benefit the community. They also received pro bono design services from Pophouse and students from College for Creative Studies to support their projects. Each team debuted their project video at the event, which was also live-streamed in partnership with Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Month programming.

A community-based jury selected the three winning teams who will share $60,000 in funds to implement their project:

  • 18th Street Design-Build Green Tech Hub - $30,000

by Tanya Saldivar-Ali, Luis Ali, Seann Lewis, & Rachel Harb
The goal of 18th Street Design-Build Tech Hub is to build and launch a community tech-lab and online design-build resource portal to strengthen Detroit’s Design-Build Ecosystem. The physical hub space will host in-person workshops, and the design-build resource portal will host educational content created during the hub development and beyond.

  • Underground Music Academy - $18,000

by Robert “Waajeed” O’Bryant, ill Weaver, and Sterling Toles
The Underground Music Academy (UMA) is a Detroit-based community music hub, which aims to build the future leaders of electronic music through its distinctive educational curriculum and mentorship model, rooted in Detroit’s Black electronic music legacy.

  • Crosstown Connection - $12,000

by DaTrice Clark, Ian Klipa, and Jacob Saphier
Crosstown Connection aims to service Detroit’s Morningside community and aid in closing the digital divide by providing resources for connectivity. The name Crosstown Connection honors the bus route that once ran the furthest distance across the city.

“What really stood out to me from each of these projects was their intentionality and uniqueness. I appreciate that all of them fuse concepts of art, culture, technology and sustainability in a very organic way,” said Ani Grigorian, a member of the jury.

The six finalists included:

  • 18th Street Design-Build Green Tech Hub by Tanya Saldivar-Ali, Luis Ali, Sean Lewis, & Rachel Harb
  • CRD Community Technology Hub by Amy Fanta, Sanquise Powell, Sandra Turner, George Preston, and Boratha Tan
  • Underground Music Academy by Robert “Waajeed” O’Bryant, ill Weaver, and Sterling Toles
  • Crosstown Connection by DaTrice Clark, Ian Klipa, and Jacob Saphier
  • Detroit Wind and Water at the Freedom Freedom Growers Farm by Rukiya Colvin,
  • Oakland Ave. Development by Patricia Dockery and Lendon Crosby

Learn more about the finalists and watch all their videos here.

The three winning teams will now have one year to implement their projects and document their inclusive design process so that others can learn from their experience. The final projects will be showcased at Detroit Month of Design in 2022. “I am so immensely proud of all the teams and honored to have worked with so many brilliant, creative, and passionate people through this experience,” said Ellie Schneider, Director of Detroit’s City of Design initiative. “These projects speak to our city’s legacy of design in creativity AND our legacy of grassroots, community-based action. This is what Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation is all about.”

This program would not have been possible without the generous support from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Lear, DPL Foundation, Bluewater, the William Davidson Foundation, and Pophouse.

For more information on the City of Design Challenge, please visit https://designcore.org///city-of-design-challenge

Instagram: @DesignCoreDet

Twitter: @DesignCoreDet





As the first and only UNESCO City of Design in the United States, Detroit is proud of its rich and diverse design legacy and eager to highlight inclusive design as a powerful tool for creating equitable communities in Detroit and beyond. Inclusive design centers itself around people who are often left out of the design process in order to create places, products, and services that allow more people to fully participate in society.

A partnership between Design Core and College for Creative Studies, the City of Design Challenge is a program that invites designers, residents, policymakers and others to collaborate around ideas that make life better for more people in Detroit and cities everywhere.


Design Core Detroit champions design-driven businesses and their role in strengthening Detroit’s economy. It offers services to strengthen, grow and attract design businesses, increase market demand for design services, and tells Detroit’s design story locally and globally. Design Core is a department within the College for Creative Studies, which is a private, nonprofit art and design college in Detroit, MI.

Design Core serves design-driven industries that specialize in design or utilize design as a central discipline of their business strategy. As the steward of Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design designation, Design Core serves as the convener and backbone organization for the Detroit City of Design initiative.